Real estate investment would be simple if it wasn’t for the tenants and maintenance expenses. I often hear landlords complaining about their tenants and the crazy maintenance requests that they have. Do I have to fix everything my tenant wants? Is a common question.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you already know that we are a management company that looks after landlords first and foremost. Its one of the biggest gripes some of our tenants have with us. With that said, there are a few things that you as the landlord are responsible for.
My rule of thumb is to go back to the condition of the property when your tenant moved in. Assuming the tenant has not caused the issue (either through damage or neglect) you as the landlord will be responsible. In short, it’s the tenant’s obligation to pay rent and your obligation to provide them with a property that is fit for purpose.
Here are two steps that a landlord can take to protect their interests.
Include a stipulation in the lease. Stipulate that your tenant is responsible for a portion of the maintenance expense. For example, a landlord might include terms where the tenant pays the first $50 of every maintenance call, or the tenant is always responsible for repairs under $100.
One of the dangers of this approach is that if minor maintenance issues aren’t reported immediately, they can turn into major repairs. Consider for a second a tenant looking at a leaky faucet. They decide against reporting the issue to avoid a co-pay. A few months pass, and the water has been seeping behind the work surface, rotting the cabinetry and causing black mold on the drywall. What was a minor issue, results in a major expense. Also, potential loss of rent if the tenant needs to move out.
At Gulf Coast Property Management, we prefer the exception method. A landlord recently contacted us about managing his rental but one of his major concerns was maintenance expenses. Especially appliance repairs. He knew the washing machine was nearing the end of its service life and he didn’t want to be responsible for costly repairs. Or purchasing a new machine when the old failed. The landlord suggested we remove the appliance so that it wouldn’t become a burden.
Instead of disposing of the working washing machine, we suggested an alternative. We recommended that we could leave the washing machine in the house but include it in the lease as an exemption. The exemption means that the tenant can use the appliance, but the landlord would not be responsible if the appliance needed fixing.
The landlord was thrilled with this suggestion and for now, the new residents have use of a washing machine.
Because the exemption was disclosed, the landlord’s expenses are protected and the tenant has no expectation of the landlord either repairing or replacing the washing machine.
What makes Sense?
If you use these tactics when managing your tenant, you won’t go far wrong, but consider it a guide. If your great tenant mentions that the carpet is starting to look shabby, don’t immediately refer to the lease to see where responsibilities fall. Weigh up the cost of the new carpet against the cost of the tenant not staying in the property when the lease is up for renewal.
In our experience, incorporating a preventative maintenance program, addressing maintenance issues promptly and performing regular inspections is the most effective way of controlling maintenance expenses.
My advice is to look at being a landlord with a business frame of mind and try and do things that make sense.
Hungry for more? Check out the two blogs below or visit our Owner Resource Center here to find answers to all of your questions. Or give us a call at (941) 782-1559, we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Should a Management Company Charge for Handling Work Orders?